Mike Lieber (U28550@UICVM.BITNET)
Sat, 11 Feb 1995 17:00:54 CST

In responding to Rob and Ralph's posts on adaptational exigencies for which
"intelligence" might be required, I find a curious focus on a single form of
adaptation within the groups exemplified. It is more common among hunters and
gatherers (if not among horticulturalists?) that hunting ordinarily covers a
range of techniques that respond to a range of prey. Environmental change
may do one of two things--narrow the range of prey or expand it. In either
case, the response is likely to be selection of or emphasis of one or several
techniques over others. Adaptive response is, then, likely to resemble
natural selection. That is, the difference in what the group did before and
what they do now is likely to be quantitative rather than qualitative. That is
technique A is practiced with a greater frequency while technique B occurs with
a lower frequency than it did before.

There are tons of examples of this Darwinian analogue. I'll just give a couple
of them. Carlos Fernandez, as part of Homer Barnett's resettled communities
project (1960s) studied people settled on an island in Lake Taal in the
Philippines. A volcanic eruption had buried their island under tons of ash.
On the island, they were sharecropping farmers in patron-client relations with
landowners. They also fished for a living in the same relationships, gardened,
and a few were part-time peddlers. When they fled to the mainland, many of the
men sought work as crew on fishing boats, but as very cheap labor, since they
had no prior relations with any of the boat owners. Others sought work as
farm labor, also at low wages. The men who had already been part-time peddlers
became very successful very quickly, as they used fine clothing their wives
sewed to buy metal goods, which they then sold, reinvested in more stock, and
resold. As full time peddlers, they made three times what they congeners were
making. While 10% of the Lake Taal population were peddlers, within five years
after the eruption, over 60% of the population was makig a living from peddling
although other pursuits had not been abandoned.

In every one of the 13 resettled Pacific communities studied in the Barnett
project, the nature of subsistence changes had the same character. Activities
remained stable, but the frequency with which they were practiced changed. New
technologies were also adopted, and they became part of the repertoire of
activities with their own frequencies of use--sometimes resulting in other
practices occurring with lower frequency than before.

I have a hard time visualizing the sort of model community that Rob has in mind
becuase it is rare in any community that people depend on a single source and
single technique for that source to the exclusion of other subsistence sources
and other techniques to get them. The Ik is a rare case, and I doubt that it
is a good model for what must have been variable adaptive strategies in
variable environments in the paleolithic. Given that Homo seems to be a bunch
of omnivores, the Ik case is too unique to be a model for comparison.

If you come at the problem of intelligence from a systems perspective, the
first thing you confront is Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety. Any systems's
internal variability must more than match the variability of its envornment's
inputs, since the latter can change. Thus, the problem of an evolving human
genome is to provide a nervous system flexible enough accomodate the variety of
environmental variables that might impinge on the human population. This is
one of the examples of the somatic adaptation (and flexibility) that I talked
about in a previous post. It is also another way of talking about precisely
the notion of CONTEXT that Scott Holmes talked about in the last couple days.

Mike lieber